The week after Open Access week

by Ingrid Robeyns on October 30, 2017

It was Open Access week last week, but I was too busy trying to meet the deadline today for submitting my book manuscript to Open Book Publishers. That sounds like a good excuse if one cares about open access, right? I slept too little for too many days, so don’t expect any creative thoughts or subtle analyses from me tonight. But here’s two interesting things I discovered while having a look on the web figuring out whether anything interesting happend during Open Access week.
First, Cambridge University digitalised the PhD dissertation of Stephen Hawking and put it online. Apparently the website crashed when that got announced. Any Cambridge University alumni who want to make their PhD dissertation Open Access are invited doing so (no more need to go to the reading room and sign a fat notebook that one has accessed a particular PhD dissertation, as I once did. Although, I should confess, it felt like an adventure. But it’s highly inefficient obviously).
Second, for some weeks now, Open Book Publishers has been offering the PDFs of all of their books open access, to celebrate the 100th book they published (their regular regime is to have the books as html open access and selling the PDFs for a few pounds, or else the author can pay a fee for making the PDF open access). Importantly, this may only last for another a day or two (I am drawing from my memory when I saw a tweet on that about two months ago), so while it lasts it may be worth checking out their collection of books in the humanities and the social sciences, such as Naom Chomsky’s Delhi Lectures, Ruth Finnegan’s book on Oral literature in Africa or textbooks on maths for university. All for nothing. Because, as their slogan goes, knowledge is for sharing.



ccc 10.30.17 at 10:54 pm

Worth mentioning in this context: the CORE project released the final version of their impressive economics textbook “The Economy”, freely (as in CC by-nc-dd licensed) available at

A great writeup about it by Samuel Bowles and Wendy Carlin (two of the authors) is here


Ingrid Robeyns 10.31.17 at 7:25 am

thanks ccc! I didn’t know about this and it looks great.
Anyone should feel free to post other major “Open Access week additions” in this thread.


Steve 10.31.17 at 11:32 am

I think that having open access publishers is great, and I would love to have books published this way. Here’s the concern: I suspect that my University’s promotions committee, etc, will view this kind of publication as “inferior” to one with some snazzy University Press. I was wondering whether anyone has any advice about how to handle the fact that there are perverse incentives to publish your work in a format which will cost someone £70, rather than for free?


Harry 10.31.17 at 1:23 pm

I don’t see a way of changing the situation Steve mentions except by having well established scholars who don’t need to worry about those kinds of thing take the lead. Eg, Ingrid. and David Velleman (who has two books with Open Book, which I greedily downloaded). And Sam Bowles! — thanks for the tip ccc, I knew about this from Bowles and had seen parts of it, but not the whole thing which looks great!


Ingrid Robeyns 10.31.17 at 6:31 pm

Steve, I fully understand the worry – and even for me (tenured full professor) there is a “status cost” to be paid by not publishing with an established University Press. But it’s a vicious circle that has to be broken – and I agree with Harry, that those of us who can “afford” to publish Open Access, should do so, in order to try to contribute to the status of the Open Access Press.

I should say that in terms of refereeing – I’ve published two co-edited books, one with OUP, one with CUP – and the refereeing process at Open Books was the same, if not better. And a very important advantage of publishing with a publisher such as Open Books is the much shorter time between delivering the final manuscript and publication – if you do all your work properly, it’s a matter of weeks or a few months, not, as with the established University Presses, (almost) a year (I’ve always wondered what the hell happens in that year, especially if they turn back the proofs which are full with typo’s!)

I’ve been thinking someone should write a paper with the title: “If you have tenure, why don’t you publish Open Access?”


SusanC 10.31.17 at 7:45 pm

@3,4: Possibly the switch to open access needs to be done at an institutional level, rather than by individuals.

e.g. A declaration by government evaluations such as the REF that publications won’t be counted unless they are open access, followed by a declaration by your department that publications from now onwards won’t be counted for promotions unless they are open access, might create the right incentives.

[There are potential issues regarding fairness towards academics who are moving between universities …. how do you fairly compare job candidates when one is from a university that demanded open access publication, and another is from a university that didn’t?]


John Quiggin 11.02.17 at 7:46 am

Not to make too much of the obvious, given that I’m writing a blog comment, but blogs offer some great opportunities here. CT readers got to see nearly all of Zombie Economics before the book appeared, and if I ever finish Economics in Two Lessons it will be long after much of it was posted here.

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